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Sept. 14, 2000
& New Zealander, Sara Lindsey immigrated to the USA in February
to marry her American fiance. She has 7 years teaching experience
in New Zealand, covering elementary, middle and high schools. She
also lived in Japan for five years and was involved, amongst other
things, in a lot of English teaching.Currently enrolled in an EdD
program and am currently taking a class called Curriculum Theory
and Design, her class was asked to interview teachers at one school
- at random. Sara, however, hadn't really been here long, and "thought
it'd be interesting to see what teachers across America thought."
Class discussions have included "good" and "bad"
ways to implement curriculm change, and according to Sara, the "survey
results seem to reflect the ideas we've been discussing... "
I made use of
my list serve memberships [and]
put out a plea for help, asking people to respond to a set of five
questions regarding curriculum changes.
I received 24
responses from 17 different states, Nova Scotia, Canada and Tasmania,
Australia. Many gave more than one response to each question, and
it must be noted that the figures do not simply represent actual
responses, as they include what people believe to be the responses
of those around them. I then attempted to order the information
which I received.
My first question
targeted changes that people would like to make in curricula. Twenty
one percent (21%) indicated that they would like to see curricula
streamlined. They didnt want the same thing taught in different
grades, and they wanted the curricula to line up with state standards.
Another twenty one percent (21%) wanted to see more interdisciplinary
studies, problem solving, logical thinking, experiments, co-operative
learning, music, art and gym written into the curricula. Variety
was seen as important. Eleven percent (11%) wanted to stop test
related curricula and assessment. These were responding to High
Stakes Testing. It seems that teachers feel that teaching
shouldnt be geared towards the test, however if there IS a
test, the curricula should be aligned with it.
that were cited included reducing the amount contained within a
curriculum (one person suggested dividing the contents into essential
and peripheral), making it teacher friendly, getting
student and parent feedback on all curriculum, reorganising who
actually writes the curriculum, and making it non-graded.
I next asked
if teachers had input into the curriculum design process. The replies
were interesting. Thirty five percent (35%) felt that teachers did
have input, thirty percent (30%) felt that they didnt, and
thirty five percent (35%) felt that they only had partial or limited
Twenty one percent
(21%) believed that administration had the most input
into curriculum change while others said that teachers, the district
superintendent, the State and local committees had the most input
(sixteen percent (16%) for each). These committees usually seem
to include teachers. Thirteen percent (13%) felt that the Board
of Education had the most input.
indicated that while teachers in the district were supposed to have
the greatest input, technically it doesnt happen that way.
"I have a friend on the Social Studies committee and they just
completely changed several outcomes at each grade level because
ONE of the PARENT reps was unhappy. Things like that make me wonder
where our curriculum comes from."
When asked how
curriculum change affects those around them, thirty two percent
(32%) mentioned stress. Stress seemed to be evidenced by grumbling,
complaining, negativity, excessive chocolate and coffee consumption
(!), panic, yelling, screaming, frustration and uneasiness. Closely
related to this was disruption, friction and controversy, mentioned
by seven percent (7%) of the respondents.
(20%) reported curriculum change causing extra meetings, extra work
and new committees being formed.
(9%) said that those around them embraced the change easily.
of curriculum change were reported as: diverting of money from library,
other texts and consumables, people pretending it isnt happening,
people not trusting the administration (who regularly change their
minds as to how something ought to be done), the feeling of been
there, done that or this too shall pass, people
feeling dictated to or devalued, older teachers finding change difficult,
and the emergence of groups who will fight the changes (with speeches,
The last question
involved reactions to change (as opposed to the effects it has)
and there was some overlap.
percent (29%) stated that a common reaction was that people just
did what they had always done and made no changes, although several
pointed out that lesson plans were changed in order to reflect what
was supposed to be taught. Twelve percent (12%) said that people
made some changes, while nine percent (9%) said that they had no
choice and had to embrace the changes.
(12%) said they felt stressed, powerless and frustrated, while nine
percent (9%) said they, or those around them, rebelled, argued and
fought as a result of the change. This contrasts with six percent
(6%) who said they would work to get the changes they wanted.
noted were: subversion (making sure the new curriculum failed),
seeking a transfer and accepting the changes willingly.
One point of
interest is that while seventy percent (70%) of respondents reported
that they felt teachers had input into the curriculum changes, only
sixteen percent (16%) indicated that teachers have the greatest
input. Forty one percent (41%) suggested that curriculum changes
are either ignored or only partially instigated.
Some of the
reasons for not instigating curriculum change were given as: too
many changes seen in teaching (some for the good and others
a fad. The pendulum swings wide and sometimes unnecessarily),
disliking the order and pace of curriculum guidelines
and knowing they wouldnt fit the students, not having the
time or the energy for it, very little collaboration and teachers
knowing what is best for their own particular students.
Those who embraced
change willingly represented both older and younger teachers. Those
who were happiest were those whose districts really involved them
in the decision making process as opposed to token or no involvement.
Much more could
be written on this topic, but this survey certainly gives us food
do you handle curriculum changes? Share
your thoughts with us!